Finding Joy When Everything's Gone To Hell

Hi friends, followers, and other people interested in my words. It’s been a while!

Many of you will have found my work when I was writing and publishing new content every day in February. In March I wrote quite a bit less because as it turns out, publishing for 29 days straight is hard work.

And with March came COVID-19, aka the Coronavirus. Suddenly my Medium feed was filled with articles about it. How to work from home, how to be a writer amidst a global pandemic, and probably thousands more.

Look, I get it, writing about current events will always be popular. The same thing happened on Medium (and across the entire internet)when Kobe Bryant passed away.

I couldn’t bring myself to write about that, and it’s the same for COVID-19.

This pandemic has infiltrated every aspect of my life and yours, I don’t want to spend more of my waking hours writing about it. I refuse to write about it. Being a bandwagon writer is not interesting to me.

Yet, here I am. Writing about how I don’t want to write about it. But it was necessary to set the stage for what I really wanted to talk about.

As of this morning, 6.6 million more people have filed for unemployment in the United States. Economists are estimating more than 20 million people will file in April.

Many of my friends have lost their job or taken a pay cut. Fortunately, I haven’t lost anyone close to me to the virus, but I know people who have. Those of us who still have a job are likely working from home and instructed not to go out except for when absolutely necessary.

Finding toilet paper, paper towels, or eggs at the grocery store has become something worth celebrating.

Yesterday our local grocery store finally had my favorite brand of coffee in-stock, and I was excited about that.

Regular life has changed faster than anyone would have expected. This is an unprecedented time, and in times like these I find it helpful to go back to basics. **

Let’s talk about how to live a happy life, regardless of what’s going on in the world.

Do more of what brings you joy

This one is easy. Start by making a list of the things in life that bring you joy. Here’s mine:

  • Spending quality time with my wife. Thumbing through our phones together in complete silence does not count.
  • Having a creative outlet like writing where I can express myself.
  • A job that provides me with solid income and proper work-life balance to where I don’t spend my nights and weekends working.

Those were pretty generic, but your list can be as specific as you want. If drinking a certain brand of coffee every morning brings you joy, write that sucker down.

Next, take some time to figure out how you can do more of those things. Maximize your happiness by doing more of what brings you joy.

For me, my wife and I already spend a lot of time together since the shelter-in-place order was enacted in our city, but not all if it has been quality time.

I alluded earlier that quality time is not sitting together on the couch thumbing through our phones. It’s so easy to take time for granted. I spend all day, every day with this person, so it’s hard to make each moment special.

But the simple act of trying to make it special is exactly what I mean. Active effort to make the most out of the time we have together.

That’s what I want to do more of.

What about you?

Do less of what doesn’t bring you joy

I hate scary movies. Horror, gore, and jump scares are the last things I want to bring into my universe.

So I don’t watch them. But my wife loves scary movies and she usually watches them with friends, back when things were normal.

Here are a few other things that didn’t bring me joy, and what I did about it.

  • Reddit. I deleted the app from my phone because I spent way too much time on it.
  • Facebook and Instagram. I completely deleted these accounts. Comparing myself to others is not how I want to spend my time.
  • Video games. I made the decision to quit for an entire year, to see what I could create instead. You can read about why I quit video games.

Still got your list of things that bring you joy? Draw a line, and underneath it write the things that don’t bring you joy.

This list might be longer than your other one, and that’s perfectly ok. As humans, we tend to focus on negative experiences more due to ancestral survival instincts. Negative experiences were important life lessons in the hunter-gatherer days, and our brains are hard-wired to make them more prominent in our minds to help survive.

Share your life with others

This is the hardest thing for me, as an introvert.

I love spending time by myself, alone (or now with my also-introverted wife), working on my own projects in near isolation.

But all I need to do is go back to my first list, the things I wrote down that bring me joy and look at the very first one.

Spending quality time with my wife.

Sharing my life with her brings me joy. It brings me the most joy if you imagine my list as stack-ranked starting with the most joyful activity.

But even my wife gets tired of me sometimes, and this is why it’s important to have a community of other people to share your life with.

It could be a book club you meet with often (now over Zoom), or a group of coworkers you’ve bonded with.

Now, more than ever, that community is important. Humans are also hard-wired to share in the lives of others. The rise of social media is all the proof we need. All of the kids on Tik-Tok (I’ll look back to this sentence later as the exact time I became an old person) posting new videos are just sharing aspects of their lives in hopes of external validation.

There are healthy ways to share your life and non-healthy ways. Just as there are healthy ways to live your life and absolutely destructive ways. This post isn’t about how to share your life with others, I think you can figure out what’s best for you.

This is about sharing. Period.

And as you share, be receptive to other’s tying to share their life with you. Don’t get too absorbed in your quest for joy that you forget to be there for other people too.

Take time to listen to others, and they’ll do the same to you.

Wrapping up

  1. Make a list of things that bring you joy. Do more of those things.
  2. Make a list of things that don’t bring you joy. Do less of those.
  3. Share your joy with others.

3 simple steps to live a happy life. I hope this post brought a little joy into your life and gave you a framework for continually finding joy.

Because you deserve it.

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